Charmingly Third World

I know we have very talented smart, physicians, scientists and researchers in this country that make America’s health care system the greatest. But it’s a total waste to have an amazing arsenal of doctors if the people who need to see them can’t.

A new article in Health Affairs this month says the US is dead last among industrialized nations in preventing deaths from amenable diseases (those illnesses that can resolved with good healthcare, such as whooping cough, tuberculosis, treatable cancers, diabetes, bacterial infections, etc.)

For a full list of what’s considered an “amenable illness,” click here. My personal favorite is euphemistic “misadventures to patients during surgical and medical care.”

Some interesting stats:

  • In 1997, the US ranked 15th among OECD countries in amenable mortality, with a rate of 114.7 deaths out of 100,000
  • In 1997, the US fared better than Finland, Portugal, UK and Ireland.
  • In 2002-03, the US ranked last (19TH) among OECD countries in amenable mortality, though our rate improved to 109.7 deaths per 100,000
  • Other countries improved their rates by up to 20%, while US improved by only 4%

There are many reasons people die from diseases and illnesses that are treatable, but one of those reasons is lack of insurance — people deferring or skipping care until it’s too late and the cancer as spread, etc.

Perhaps most interesting is the number of preventable deaths annually. IF the US achieved the same mortality rate as other industrialized nations, between 75,000 and 101,000 Americans would survive annually. That’s at least four times higher than the figure we often cite from the Institute of Medicine, which describes how 18,000 people die annually due to uninsurance.

Ironically, we also learned this week that the amount the US spends per capita has increased to $7,026 — a collective $2 trillion plus annually — more than any other industrialized nation.

So WHAT exactly are we getting with our money?

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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